Volvo is bringing its Drive Me autonomous driving research program to the United Kingdom next year. It will run alongside similar programs in Sweden and China, which will see each country have 100 XC90 SUVs put in the hands of real families to test Volvo's autonomous car technology.
The cars will be able to run in fully "unsupervised" autonomous mode on certain, pre-approved and pre-mapped freeways around London. This means that drivers will be able to fully disengage from the driving process, instead spending time reading a book or watching a video. The car will be able to drive itself and handle any situation that might arise on the roadway.
the autonomous XC90 SUV will be leased to customers for autonomous testing
"In autonomous mode, the car can handle all situations that occur," says Trent Victor, senior technical leader for crash avoidance at Volvo. "Going down a stretch of road, the car takes the responsibility for extreme events. If you don't take over, if you just want to do email, the car will take the responsibility and safely stop at the side of the road."
The Volvos in the Drive Me UK program will be designed for autonomous use mostly in commuting situations, where Volvo is aiming to help drivers gain time for other activities by freeing them from needing to pay attention to their drive. The Swedish company calls its ultimate vision Concept 26 and believes customers will spent their commute watching television, working, or simply relaxing.
The UK trial will be in partnership with Thatcham Research, the UK industry's insurance safety organization similar to the IIHS in the US. The insurance industry is eager to study the impact of autonomous driving, how it affects claims for injuries and vehicle damage. Volvo has said in the past that it will accept liability for the actions of the car when it's in autonomous mode.
Volvo says it is interested in bringing Drive Me to the US, but has no plans to announce yet.